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Using an awakening narrative to leave behind a former national‐identity: an investigation of the conversion of national‐identity in Taiwan

Nations and Nationalism

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National‐identity has become a civil religion and a major source of how people define themselves. Changing one's nationality thus is a salient event/social process in today's society; therefore, people's nationality conversion deserves more academic attention. Treating the convert as a social type and regarding people's self‐reports (or converts' accounts) as topics for analysis, this article examines the Taiwan case to illuminate how people tell their stories of converting nationality. ‘Converts’ usually employed an awakening narrative to leave their former national‐identity behind: For example, the ‘awakening’ plot is readily apparent, a huge contrast between a previous ‘wrong’ self and a current ‘correct’ self is mentioned, and the ‘awakening’ is delineated as an achievement. The symbolic awakening is harnessed as a strategic tool to create discontinuity autobiographically, to justify one's major change, to ensure that one's cognitive security remains intact, and to call for more awakenings. This article further notes that, since narrative itself is a practice, people always have ‘a self in the making’ which determines (and is determined by) how people (re)tell their life stories. Moreover, in Taiwan's case, we see that ‘awakeners’ usually admired early awakeners but blamed late awakeners (which constitutes an interesting triadic group relationship); people may also describe their experience of having multiple awakenings before the ‘grand’ awakening (‘Awakening’). © The author(s) 2015. Nations and Nationalism © ASEN/John Wiley & Sons Ltd 2015